This is undoubtedly the most famous pass in Mpumalanga - and with good reason too. It is 26,2 km long (and even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west. The pass forms part of the Mpumalanga Panoramic Route and carries appropriately heavy traffic - both tourist and commercial. It is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. It is named after the famous Long Tom cannon.
With 66 bends, corners and curves and a fairly easy average gradient of 1:39 and no part being steeper than 1:10 this pass is a magnificent spectacle with grand views and rugged frontier and Anglo-Boer War history adding to its allure.
Lugogoda Pass is a short but fairly steep little pass located near White River in the beautiful province of Mpumalanga, close to the western border of the Kruger National Park. It climbs out of the Legogote valley on the northern side, with some stunning granite koppies very prominent in the immediate area. The tarred road is generally-speaking in a good condition, and although a few potholes and cracks have started to appear, it does have wide shoulders and a double-lane section on the steepest part of the climb. The R538 was constructed to service the large townships which stretch all of the way from Hazyview to the northern start point of the pass, and an approach from this direction involves a slow and cumbersome drive through this mostly built-up area. The biggest hazards are the local drivers, who tend to drive either too slowly or too fast, but watch out for pedestrians and animals as well.
This lovely tarred pass with its sweeping curves and grand views is located midway between Sabie and Graskop on the R532 and also provides access to the renowned Mac Mac Falles as well as the Mac Mac Pools just a few kilometres further south. The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, on the proviso that barrier line restrictions and speed limits are adhered to. It's not a major pass in the greater scheme of things but it does provide magnificent scenery in a picture perfect Lowveld setting.
The entire area around Graskop and Sabie is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent mountain mists. In such low visibility conditions, adapt your speed according to conditions, put on all your lights (in daylight hours) including your hazards. At night switch your main beams off and use your fog lights to reduce glare.
On the eastern side of the Drakensberg Escarpment, facing away from the Blyde River Canyon, is the Mariepskop complex - a mountain enclave and centre of endemism of unsurpassed beauty. You can ascend to the top where, at 1,945m above sea level, you can see the Indian Ocean and Maputo on a clear day. Mariepskop is the higest peak in the northern Drakensberg Escarpment. The view is one of the finest in all of South Africa, providing the mountain is free of cloud and mist.
This decisively steep pass is 13,7 km long and climbs 1100m to summit at 1942m ASL via 95 bends, corners and curves, producing an average gradient of 1:14 but some of the sections are seriously steep at 1:5. The pass rises from the Lowveld at Klaserie on the R40 and climbs up this spectacular ridge of the Drakensberg in a complex network of roads, both gravel and tarred, to give access to the towering Mariepskop (its African name is Mogologolo) which plays host to a number of government installations including an old SAAF Radar Station, a set of telecoms towers and forestry fire look-out points.
Masjiennek Pass (which translates from Afrikaans into Machine Nek Pass) is to all intents and purposes the western connecting pass between Lydenburg and the Long Tom Pass. It starts 4 km west of the Long Tom Pass summit point and descends through 609 meters of altitude to end just outside Lydenburg over an 11,9 km traverse. This produces a comfortable average gradient of 1:20, but some sections are fairly steep at 1:10.
The road is in good condition and has been well engineered. It includes 27 bends, corners and curves, most of which have an easy radius, but there a few bends requiring a reduction in speed down to 50 kph. It is subject to heavy mountain mists with the accompanying low visibility risks and carries heavy traffic, which includes articulated mining and logging trucks. Together with the Koffiehoogte Pass on the eastern side of the Long Tom Pass, the trio of passes form one long continious pass between Lydenburg and Sabie.
This big gravel pass traverses the Mokobulaan Nature Reserve and gains 625m over 19 km to produce an average gradient of 1:30. It has some fairly steep sections at 1:8. There are 48 bends, corners and curves crammed into it's 19 km length, so sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace. There are a number of cautionaries for this road which include thick mountain mists, heavy rain, slippery and muddy sections, deep ruts and washaways, logging debris on the road and the presence of heavy logging vehicles on weekdays.
The pass connects Lydenburg in the north with the N4 in the south and follows a similar direction as the Long Tom Pass some 20 km to the north. It has a summit height of 1921m ASL producing sweeping views over the valleys and kloofs. This pass should be viewed/read in conjunction with the Wonderkloof Pass which follows it on the southern side on the same road.
The Montrose Pass is a short tarred pass on the N4 approximately midway beween Ngodwana and Nelspruit. The highlight of the pass is a stop at the Montrose Falls where there is a small hotel and where you can see the Crocodile River plunging over a solid rock sill. The pass only rises 61m over a distance of 3,74 km producing an average gradient of an easy 1:61, but there are steeper sections at 1:10 just before and after the summit.
Mount Carmel pass is a 13,4 km long gravel road descending 310 vertical meters through the Mount Carmel range of the Drakensberg. It is located about 25 km north-west of Nelspruit on the D1054. The road connects several farms around Schagen and is mainly used by farmers and forestry vehicles. The road is in fair condition and is suitable for all vehicles.This pass traverses the beautiful valley through the Mount Carmel Conservancy. It loses 310 metres of altitude producing an easy average gradient of 1:43 with the steepest sections being at 1:10. As the case for most gravel roads, we issue the usual 'slippery when wet' cautionary.
The Mpageni Pass, together with it's tandem pass, the Bouldersberg Pass forms the bulk of the old Nelspruit-Kaapmuiden road. It is a narrow tarred road [D286] that traverses the Crocodile Poort Nature Reserve. It climbs 472 vertical meters over a distance of 10,2 km to produce an average gradient of 1:22, with some sections as steep as 1:8.
The pass terminates 2,5 km before the western starting point of the Bouldersberg Pass (after the summit plateau). Watch out for wild animals, especially at night and it should also be noted that there are two control booms, where you have to sign in and out. There is no charge for entry into the reserve, but you will be required to produce your drivers licence and it will be scanned as will your vehicle's licence disc. This is an anti-poaching initiative.
Nelshoogte, also known as Nelsberg Pass, is located on the tarred R38 road between Barberton and Badplaas in Mpumalanga. It was named after Louis Johannes Nel (1821 – 1860), the father of the three Nel brothers that founded Nelspruit, when he procured the farms Doornhoek and Goedehoop at the foot of the mountain.
The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles. The are very few hazards on this pass, except for occasional logging vehicles and slow-moving trucks. Wonderful views over the Nkomati Valley are presented, particularly when traversing the pass from east to west.
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Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
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